The Absence of Body in Cyberspace - Criminal Justice Impact


The "computer ontology" has an impact on constructing the offenders’ and
victims’ identities and it also shapes the image of a judge. The present paper focuses
on body as one of the central ideas in criminal law. In cyberspace, the body extends
outward into data: digitized identity cards, sentencing information systems, risk
assessment instruments, etc. Some authors talk about the disappearance of body-in-
law (Redhead), others about the expansion of data/body (Brown). The impact of the
so-called "computer ontology" can be observed in police investigation, prosecution,
judging and sentencing. In criminal investigation, "evidence" is rendered into a
data-human form. The nature of victimization, as seen from the victim’s
perspective, is challenged: which type of victimization should be perceived as the
"real" one? On the other hand, the notion of a criminal offender is conceived
through the optic of pre-defined "risk factors" and other pre-defined attributes
recognized by the criminal legal system. In systems with sentencing information
instruments, a judge has to take into consideration only the factors that have been
previously anticipated, estimated as relevant and adequately pondered. Franko Aas
believes that "a delinquent with a soul" has already ceased to exist and instead
suggests denoting a subject as a "data-vidual". A subject – an offender is thus no
longer perceived as a contextualized multi-dimensional entity, but as a de-
contextualized two-dimensional abstract object. From cybercrime perspective, the
paper tackles one of the central presumptions of criminal law and criminology, i.e.
the presumption of a generic offender.